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The new gold
Water – the new agenda for war

With the water table depleting, agricultural land is losing its fertility as dangerously – if not faster. Almost all developed and developing countries are leaving no stone unturned to save water and keep the land arable. In 2007, the Spanish government fined citizens caught watering their plants with 9,000 euros. Cyprus is buying water from Greece, and Australian cities are buying water to help their farmers. On one hand, China is planning to redirect Himalayan water, and on the other, California is planning a water-rationing system.

Presently, around ten corporate magnates dominate the global drinking water industry. This whole business model of purchasing ‘water laden land’ is not as simple as it seems. Rich countries have started a land-grabbing process. Countries like China, Kuwait and Sweden are snapping up vast tracts of agricultural land in third world nations (mainly in Africa) under the veil of outsourcing their agriculture, but actually, they are eying the vast reserves of water these lands contain! Recently, Korean company Daewoo also plunged into this business by considering a 99-year lease on 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar land. Middle-East countries, which have huge drinking water problems, are well into this business. While Qatar is trying to grab 40,000 hectares in Kenya, UAE is targeting 30,000 hectares in Sudan. And the common feature among all these deals is that these lands contain huge water reserves. With the global bottled water market slated to have a value of $86.4 billion by 2011, grabbing fertile land serves a dual purpose – using the land to produce extra crops to mitigate the food crisis and also creating a potential market for bottled water, especially in third world countries. By 2025, over 1.4 billion people in 36 countries will be without adequate drinking water.

Water is being deemed as the ‘new oil’; and war over water would be no surprise in 2010. It seems that the gold rush is only waiting for a sequel. The new gold is sans any colour or lustre; but it’s definitely far more precious!

By:- Sray Agarwal

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